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How to Treat Poison Ivy Symptoms

Updated on September 30, 2012

Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) is not a true ivy by nature. This shrub or vine is grown in North America and Canada and produces a clear sap known as ’Urushiol’. It is the Urushiol oil that when in contact with your skin causes the itching and painful rash.

Some facts about poison ivy:

  • Poison Ivy grows either as a shrub, trailing or climbing vine and is recognised by it’s 3 almond shaped leaves.
  • The allergic reaction caused upon contact with poison ivy is named ‘urushiol-induced contact dermatitis’. In very cases it may causes anaphylaxis ( a life threatening condition).
  • Around 350,000 people in the U.S are affected by poison ivy every year.
  • Not everyone who comes in contact with poison ivy reacts to the urushiol and its believed that 15-30% of people do not have a reaction.
  • Within 12 – 72hours of contact with poison ivy the individual may expect to experience the signs of a rash. These include red inflamed bumps of the skin often in a line or streaks, vesicles and blisters filled with fluid may also be present.
  • The rash is very itchy but cannot be spread by scratching. It may indicate some areas received more poison and reacted at a different rate to others.
  • The rash may last between 1 – 4 weeks depending on the severity of the case. In rare circumstances hospitalization may be required.

Poison Ivy Treatment

Most contacts with poison ivy can be treated at home. However if you experience any of the following symptoms you need to contact your doctor.

  • Difficulty breathing
  • The rash covers most of your body
  • Swelling – especially if the swelling is on your face or causes your eyelid to swell and shut
  • The rash is on your face or genitals
  • Nothing eases the rash or most of your skin itches.

The American Academy of Dermatology suggest some poison ivy treatments that may alleviate the itching and painful rash.

  • Rinse the skin as soon as possible with lukewarm water (within 10 minutes if possible)
  • Wash in an Oatmeal bath – short lukewarm baths – you can buy the oatmeal preparations from most drugstores.
  • Or wash in a bath of Baking Soda – add 1 cup of Baking Soda to the lukewarm running water.
  • Cool Showers
  • Cold compresses – soak a face flannel in ice cold water and apply to area.
  • Anti- histamine pills – NOT anti-histamine cream as this may make the rash worse.
  • Only apply hydro-cortisone cream to very mild cases.


  • Be able to identify poison ivy and steer clear where possible.
  • Wear Ivy block barrier ( can buy over-the-counter)
  • Wear protective clothing, long sleeves, long pants, boots and gloves – even if wearing a ivy block barrier
  • Wash all clothes, tools and pets that have come into contact with poison ivy. The oil can remain active for long periods of time
  • Do not burn poison ivy the fumes can cause a nasty allergic reaction.

Other poison ivy treatment that may help:

· Atarax (hydroxyzine, a prescription oral antihistamine)

· Aveeno Anti-Itch Cream with Natural Colloidal Oatmeal

· Band-Aid Anti-Itch Gel

· Caladryl Clear Topical Analgesic Skin Lotion

· Calamine Lotion

· Cortizone 10 (OTC topical steroid)

· Domeboro Astringent Solution Powder Packets

· Gold Bond Maximum Strength Medicated Anti-Itch Cream

· Itch-X Anti-Itch Gel with Soothing Aloe Vera

· Burts's Bees Poison Ivy Soap

· Cortaid Poison Ivy Care Treatment Kit

· Ivarest Medicated Cream

· IvyStat

· Tecnu Extreme Poison Ivy Scrub

· Zanfel Wash For Poison Ivy, Oak & Sumac


Note: The guide is not meant to be fully comprehensive and is meant for information only. The author makes no guarantee, either expressed or implied, regarding the efficacy or use for any reason of the information contained within this article.


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